Feature

Clinton: Has Benghazi damaged her 2016 chances?

The departing secretary of state appeared before a Senate committee looking into the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate.

One word sums up Hillary Clinton’s performance before Congress last week—presidential, said David Rothkopf in CNN.com. Appearing before a Senate committee looking into the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Ben-ghazi, Libya, the departing secretary of state “commanded the stage and deftly repulsed effort after effort by Republican partisans” to use her as a punching bag. She tore into Sen. Ron Johnson, who tried to push the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration wanted the public to view the deadly raid as a protest gone wrong, rather than a planned act of terrorism. “What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton shouted, pounding the table with her fist. “We had four dead Americans.” She accepted responsibility for the compound’s poor security, and said she has spent her final months at State making sure Benghazi “doesn’t happen again.” If Clinton does decide to enter the 2016 race, her courage in facing down her Republican inquisitors will only boost her chances, said Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune. “She stands tall when her critics look so small.”

Quit fawning, said Jonah Goldberg in NationalReview.com. If you listened to what she said, it’s clear that “Clinton lied and is still lying.” She denied, for example, ever claiming herself that the raid was sparked by a protest over a U.S.-made anti-Islam video. Yet when Clinton received the caskets of the Americans killed in Benghazi, she blamed their deaths on that “awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.” Like other members of the Obama administration, Clinton used the video to dodge responsibility for the failure to provide adequate security for our diplomats—a dodge she continued last week. Clinton’s performance was “worthy of an Oscar,” said Jeffrey Kuhner in The Washington Times. She choked back the tears when describing seeing the bodies of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his staff, then coldly blamed her subordinates for turning down Stevens’s multiple requests for more security. Her practiced lying brought to mind her steely-eyed dissembling during the many scandals of her husband’s administration, from Travelgate to the allegations that he sexually assaulted Paula Jones and two other women.

What a load of sexist nonsense, said Jeneé Osterheldt in The Kansas City Star. If a man had sobbed while describing a staff member’s funeral, he’d have been applauded for such a “rare show of tender emotion.” Clinton, meanwhile, is dubbed a faker and manipulator. Conservatives also described her as frightening, witchy, and seething with rage. “Women with their own thoughts and ways are scary to some men in politics.”

What’s frightening is that this lousy diplomat could one day be president, said Michael Goodwin in the New York Post. During a fawning 60 Minutes joint interview with Clinton last weekend, Obama all but anointed her as his successor, saying she is “one of the finest secretary of states we’ve had.” Huh? Yes, she traveled a lot, but under her watch, America’s power has weakened. Rogue states Iran and North Korea are boldly defying the U.S. The U.S. has shown no leadership on Syria and Libya, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more hopeless than ever, and we’re now preparing to abandon Afghanistan as we did Iraq. Today, however, politics is “based on race, gender, and other identity markers that are immune to traditional standards of accountability.” The women who make up a large part of the Democratic base like the idea of a female president, and that’s all that counts.

It’s not just women who admire Clinton, said Richard Cross III in The Baltimore Sun. Almost 70 percent of all voters view her favorably, as do 65 percent of independents and 37 percent of Republicans. Her time as secretary of state has softened her partisan image. The “Clinton of the 1990s—veteran of the health-care debacle, Whitewater scandal figure, and critic of the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’—has been largely left behind.” Clearly, the Democratic nomination is hers if she wants it, said Steve Kornacki in Salon.com. But should Clinton run for president, Republican attacks on her character, looks, and performance “will become the norm—just as it was from 1992 to 2008.” Last week was just a small reminder of “the price she’ll have to pay” if she wants to return to the White House. Maybe it was enough to make her wonder: “Do I really want to do this all over again?”

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